Students help staff, learn job skills at Cougar Café


Grace Underwood

Vanessa McGann prepares chicken caesar salad for the cafe during second period. Photo by Grace Underwood.

Teachers at Del Campo are often very busy grading assignments and planning lessons and sometimes they don’t have time to eat lunch. Luckily, Mr. Chavez, who runs the Workability Program for Del Campo, and the students in his second period class come to the rescue of hard-working teachers and staff by running the Cougar Cafe. Students develop job skills by making and then delivering food to classrooms and offices.

Mr. Chavez practices food safety by wearing a hair net when preparing food. Photo by Kira Clark.

Del Campo’s Workability program was started by the state of California in order to assist students with special needs with transitioning into post-secondary life. It focuses on helping students in the area of getting work, developing independent living skills, and furthering their education.

Chavez says, “I have been in charge of Workability at Del Campo High School for 10 years and I can tell you it is the most rewarding thing I have done in education, in terms of satisfaction.” He is able to help students and watch them learn that they can live independent lives.

Although he did not start the program, he is passionate about it. “I get to help and see students, who may think they will never be independent in life, learn that yes, they can.”

There are two Workability classes, Workability 1 and Workability 2. Workability 1 has more of a campus-centered focus where students help the school with recycling and baking pastries for the cafe. In addition, these level 1 students have recently started gardening to provide fresh vegetables for the cafe.

Workability 2 has a stronger focus on helping in the community. As of right now, this class goes off-campus each week to practice their work skills at JC Penny, where they are considered student interns and help with the setup of the store. The class also gets to learn basic entry-level work skills in an actual workplace environment. In the past, other level 2 classes were given opportunities to learn the same skills at sites such as Raley’s, Smart & Final, and Best Buy.

Pasinee Promkhan shows off the supplies she prepared for making bagels and salads at one of the cooking stations. Photo by Grace Underwood.


Dianna Andrews demonstrates her skill at using the Espresso machine  Photo by Grace Underwood.

According to Mr. Chavez, students who participate at the cafe “get to learn transferable work skills and help plan their futures.” Students also follow basic safety and work regulations when they participate in class, these include wearing hairnets whenever they plan on handling food, and full-length pants accompanied by closed-toed shoes are required to be worn on a workday to avoid injury. His class has also used online training courses to receive food handlers’ certificates.

Kelvin Phoong and John Fries both prepare a panini in one of the cafe’s cooking stations. Photo by Kira Clark.

Teachers and staff can email Mr. Chavez before second period and order a variety of delicious snacks, sandwiches, and drinks. The menu includes coffee drinks for $3, smoothies for $4, panini for $4, and salads for $2. Other items that are offered include personal pizzas, stuffed baked potatoes, and soup. The cafe operates every Monday and Friday.

Many Del Campo teachers and staff, including Journalism teacher Ms. Powell, give the food and the cafe a high recommendation. “The food is delicious and the work that Mr. Chavez and the students do is fantastic!”

Thank you to Mr. Chavez and his students for all that they do.